I think the first giallo film I saw was The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. My young brain immediately mashed it up with The Maltese Falcon, because mysteries and birds and ladies and jewels and black and white films and —
From there, things also filed under spooky and eeek were Les Diaboliques and Wait Until Dark (one of the earliest films I remember seeing Audrey Hepburn in). I was incredibly young when I saw these films — I would have been eleven, twelve, thirteen, because I had the good fortune of having an amazing art teacher in middle school. At the end of every semester, she rewarded us with a film we probably would not otherwise see — and I wonder now how she got permission to show them to us at all. Who screens Diabolique for a room full of eleven year olds? One heck of a great teacher, that’s who. The Man Who Laughed, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and at some point, The Fall of the House of Usher utterly welded itself to my brain — Vincent and Myrna, and omg Richard Matheson writing the screenplay based on a Poe story?! It was a descent into exclamation points from then on.
When Ross posted the name of his upcoming anthology, Giallo Fantastique, I thought to myself NO WAY. But yes way, Ross was totally mashing up these genres and I crossed my fingers when I dropped him a note. He invited me to submit, and thus I wrote “The Threshold of Waking Light,” which turned out to be its own little challenge.
A few weeks earlier, I’d written another story about a curious place; a noir piece set in a Chicago of the 1930s. It is a world of Automats, sleek cars, rain, men in desperately neat suits, neon light, gangsters, bank heists. Like much noir, it’s a black and white world — literally. The world the characters inhabit is black, white, and shades of gray. What would happen in such a world, I wondered, to someone who could see color? Where had color gone — had the world once been colored, but was now leeched of all colors, with only grays left behind?
Into this world walked a man who had one eye that was brightly colored. In fact, there was a stripe of color across his entire face. How did that happen? The answer was of course: ladies. In this world, “shine girls” can access the colors that the world doesn’t normally hold, and they’ve come to be valuable to gangsters, who mark the people who’ve wronged them with colors. Of course, Our Hero discovers something deeply disturbing is happening in his world — something he doesn’t want to explain, but cannot help but move toward.
In the vast and unending gray of the world, there spilled a stain of crimson, rushing like a swelling sea wave over the threshold of a door that should not, could not, would not exist, but did so in the here and now, existing so forcibly that Kasper Mack could only stare at the scarlet-wet boundary filling what should have been the end of the alley behind the busy automat. Where once there had been a Dumpster, shedding rusted paint as more trash was packed into its gaping maw, there was now a door, a door that contained a sanguine sea that tongued itself into the gray ground and bid Kasper closer.
-The Threshold of Waking Light
And the title? Comes from Snodgrass‘ Orpheus, and speaks to Our Hero’s life indeed:
It was the nature of the thing:
No moon outlives its leaving night,
No sun its day. And I went on
Rich in the loss of all I sing
To the threshold of waking light,
To larksong and the live, gray dawn.
So night by night, my life has gone.
My Bookish Ways is doing a series of interviews with the authors of Giallo Fantastique. Read mine, and also check out these others (with more to come): Orrin Grey, Ennis Drake, Adam Cesare, MP Johnson.
Editor Ross Lockhart is also hosting a Giallo Fantastique launch event at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, CA on Wednesday May 20! When you RSVP, you can save 20% on the book! (You can also add it to your Goodreads list!)
And if you aren’t in California and just want to grab the book, you can do that through Ye Old Amazon right the hell now!
Before that dwarf walks up behind you and cuts your throat…run run RUN!
The ebook lands May 15!
Run faster, you fool!